Title: The Chalice
Series: Joanna Stafford, #2
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: March 5th, 2013
Length: 512 pages | 14 hours 53 minutes (narrated by Nicola Barber)
Source: Borrowed from my local library
It was a time of fear. It was a time of prophecy. It was a time for one woman to show a courage she never knew she had…
Winner of the Best Historical Mystery Award from the RT Reviews, ‘The Chalice’ is a thriller told from the point of view of a young woman caught in the crosswinds of time: She has pledged to become a Dominican nun in an England ruled by Henry VIII, who has ruthlessly smashed his country’s allegiance to Rome. By 1538, the bloody power struggles between crown and cross threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last. The life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies. As she struggles to forge a life for herself in a country that rejects her faith, she must also decide if her future should be shared with a man–and if so, which of the two men who love her should be chosen.
I just re-read The Crown, which this book is sequel to, to remind myself why I liked Joanna Stafford so much. so there’s an unfair comparison in my head to the first book. So let’s start with the few things I was disappointed by.
The premise of the grand plot of this book isn’t even hinted at in book 1, so the sequel feels unnecessary, or at least contrived, in terms of plot. That said, it was nice to see life after the dissolving of the monasteries- as it’s a topic not often delved into.
There were multiple sections that just galloped by- skipping over development entirely. I’m thrown any time a character breaks character with no lead-up, and it kept happening, like a plot device designed to get to the next bit of action. Considering how in the head of Joanna we are, it was frustrating.
Mostly, though, it was Joanna’s inconsistent agency throughout the story. Partly this was due to the period (no such thing as an empowered woman then), and partly because (as a novice and a woman), Joanna’s temperment is more meek and steady than fierce, so she’s often a tool of others.
By the end of it, though I didn’t understand the main riddle at all (though the author’s resolution quite clever) I was starting to have hope for Joanna. And now I hope in book 3 she becomes Sister Helen, and captures the hidden history of England in tapestry stories and allusions.
I’m a coffee-fueled, hobby-addicted bibliophage who makes cruelty-free mineral eye shadows (inspired by novels). I’m usually in front of a screen (writing, reading, or gaming), but I’ve been known to emerge for geekery, good food, and dark chocolate.